Green Army project unveiled as government axe falls
A MAJOR Green Army project has been unveiled in Coffs Harbour - just days after the Federal Government announced plans to cut the program by almost half.
Solitary Islands Ocean Walk at Diggers Beach has been given a new lease of life by a team of young Green Army graduates who have ripped out tonnes of weeds, planted new vegetation, and constructed a boardwalk to improve beach access.
It's the result of six-months' work by the determined group of 17-24 year olds and accompanies nine other Green Army projects between Coffs Harbour and Wooli.
The unveiling, however, followed the Federal Government's Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook that detailed plans to scale back the program by $316.7million.
The cut is nearly half of the $525 million initially pledged to the Green Army and means the 15,000 places initially promised to young unemployed people will be reduced to 5000 each year.
Landcare Australia has led calls for the funding to be reinstated - 18 months after the Federal Government cut its budget by $484 million to fund the Green Army.
Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker said the cut to the Green Army was part of the "necessary financial restraint" needed for the Federal Budget to return to surplus.
Despite the cut, work on the Coffs Coastal Corridors project will continue into the new year and local applications will also be submitted for the fifth round of Green Army funding in early-2016.
Envite environmental co-ordinator Justin Couper - who has been engaged at the work at Diggers Beach - said the completed projects would leave a lasting legacy.
"We've had a high rate of people staying in the program… and it's a good stepping stone for getting young people engaged in the workforce," he said.
"It provides that motivation and confidence and there's a real sense of accomplishment - they can really see they are making a difference and contribution to the community."
Speaking to the Advocate, several graduates said they are now keen to pursue a career in conservation and land management, bolstered by the experience they have gained.
The Green Army project was assisted by Envite, Coffs Harbour City Council and National Parks and Wildlife, and also included native seed collection, plant propagation, foreshore management and heritage conservation.